Dialogues with Mother Earth
Paul Stopforth: Break Point
Erica Daborn: Dialogues with Mother Earth
Paul Stopforth: Break Point
Clark Gallery is honored to present mural-size drawings by Erica Daborn and new paintings by Paul Stopforth. Both artists are active in the political discourse of the day and share a concern for the world around them and the issues affecting all of us. Daborn and Stopforth are esteemed members of the School of the Museum of Fine Arts faculty.
Daborn’s epic mural-sized charcoal drawings, collectively entitled Dialogues with Mother Earth, address the potentially catastrophic themes and consequences associated with global warming. Rich in narrative, Daborn’s massive drawings become cautionary tales with eq ual parts fable and folk-tale. The artist, a darker modern-day Mother Goose creates fantastic tableaus populated by anthropomorphized animals, mythical creatures, fairies, gnomes, and humans of various sizes and types. Grand in scale, Funeral for the Last Elephant, measures 73” x 158”. Central to the composition is an exquisite depiction of the great beast with an abundant flowering bouquet, flanked by a procession of animals, musicians, and picket-laden demonstrators all led by a robed and weeping Gandhi-like figure. Daborn’s drawings, akin to theatrical backdrops in scale, inhabit the world of allegory. Her meticulous graven images rendered in black and white, with charcoal inscribed over gesso, symbolize both the hope and despair one faces when contemplating the future.
This is Erica’s second one-person show at the Clark Gallery. Daborn has been featured in exhibitions at the Royal College of Art, London, Olin College, Annette Howell Turner Center for the Arts in Georgia, Fresno Art Museum, Danforth Art Museum, New Art Center, Brandeis University, as well as numerous museums and galleries in the U.S. and abroad. Daborn has received enrichment grants from the Cushman Family Foundation and Virginia Center for Creative Arts and given lectures at Wellesley College, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and universities in Colorado, Illinois, and Nevada. Daborn teaches at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts.
Born and raised in South Africa, Paul Stopforth makes paintings that focus on fragments of history and memory. Central to Paul’s first solo exhibition at Clark Gallery are Tidal Pool Bethesda I and Tidal Pool Bethesda III. Each painting measuring 18” x 80”, reference Stopforth’s continued appropriation of Robben Island as source and subject. Found off the west coast of Cape Town, South Africa, for over a century it happened to be an ideal place to send the mentally disturbed, chronically poor, and incurably sick. The island also has the dark distinction of being the location where Nelson Mandela spent 18 of his 27 years in prison. However, more specifically, Bethesda, refers to the Bath of Bethesda, where the custodians of Robben Island warehoused those afflicted with leprosy at the far end of the island. Perhaps, the seawater provided a powerful cathartic curative for those afflicted with the disease. The remains of the pool are still visible today, and the stagnant, black water that lies within the eroding retaining walls is an evocative echo of another era. Set in thickly applied luxuriant layers of squeegeed (Richter-esque) gouache, Stopforth beautifully presents the angular formation of the bath’s crumbling stonewalls jutting zigzagged through its reflective pool. In Stopforth’s hands, the bath is transformed into a reservoir of intense aging splendor coupled with a powerful psychological warfare. Closer to home, Paul has found Provincetown’s breakwater, at the tip of Cape Cod, a subject for inspiration and investigation.
Stopforth began his artistic career at the height of Apartheid and chose to confront the political issues of his country head on. Just two years before Nelson Mandela was released from prison, Paul and his wife emigrated to the United States in 1988. Stopforth studied at the Johannesburg School of Art and was awarded British Council Scholarship to attend the Royal College of Art in London. Over the course of his career, he has held numerous one-person exhibitions both in South Africa and in the United States. He has been represented in group shows in this country and in Europe, and has been the recipient of numerous awards and residencies. Stopforth taught in the Visual and Environmental Studies Department at Harvard for ten years and is currently a visiting faculty member at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.